Unexpected International Trips and the Beautiful Costa Brava

What do you do if you’re studying abroad in Barcelona and your friends are interning abroad in Madrid? Naturally, the answer is to meet up in Portugal. At least that´s what my friends and I decided to do two weekends ago. My initial intentions were to go to Madrid to see the capital city and hang out with some fellow Buckeyes for the weekend. Upon learning that they were traveling to Lisbon, I booked a flight and adventure ensued.

To say that we had a great weekend is an understatement. Lisbon is an incredibly lovely city on the coast, all the sidewalks are tile, the buildings and streets are wide and gorgeous, and there is a fantastic lack of the hustle-and-bustle that surrounds me constantly in Barcelona. The city was not at all boring, however, and we filled our time there will a beach day, city tour on a double-decker bus, pub crawl, and castle exploration. The novelty of meeting up with my friends from home in a country that was foreign even to the foreign countries that we are living in for the summer was fun. I got to meet a group of 15 more Buckeyes, all interning abroad in Madrid, that were traveling with my good friends. It was so nice to go out with strangers the first night and leave them as friends two days later.

I returned back to Barcelona in the hands-down most sketchy flight I´ve ever been on. Coming in hot during the landing, when we touched ground the entire flight let out the most audible gasp I´ve ever heard and we continued to swerve down the runway in a chaotic manner. The most attractive flight staff ever placed on a plane said nothing, so I´m sure we were fine. I am not joking about their attractiveness, by the way. I listened to every word of that safety presentation let me tell you. Fastened seatbelts and emergency exits have never been so interesting.

I left a piece of myself in Lisbon. Namely, the outer layer of my skin that got absolutely scorched to oblivion on the beach of Cascais. I left my weekend of wonder and went through another week of classes, food, and culture in Barcelona until the following weekend. This time, the destination was Costa Brava, the ´brave coast´ of Spain. Commonly regarded as some of the most beautiful water and coastline of the Mediterranean, I was more than excited to visit the small town of Roses. Our first stop in Costa Brava was the town of Figures, better known as the birthplace of one of my favorite artists, Salvador Dalì. Perhaps you´ve heard of him?  We had a guided tour of the Dalì museum that he, himself, designed. This visit was absolutely magical for me. After our visit, we enjoyed a lovely lunch by the sea, despite the first rainfall that I´ve experienced since I´ve been in Spain. From there we got back on the bus and checked into our hotel in Roses. The next morning we boarded our chariot for the day, a boat that drove us around the coast. Needless to say, the water was gorgeous. We even stopped at one point and took a dip by jumping off the boat. It was not warm, but definitely worth it. Our stop was at the quiet white building spotted town of Cadaques, the home of Dalì and his wife Gala. More lunch and beach time ensued before getting back on the boat to get back on the bus to get back to Barcelona. It was a relaxing weekend of aquatic beauty.

Now I´m finishing presentations and preparing for my final exams that I´ll be taking tomorrow and Thursday. I will be joined on Friday by my sister, Heather, to begin the next chapter of my summer travels by showing her around my home of the last month for two days before we set off by train for Paris. This month in Barcelona has been one of the most enjoyable and magical times in my life. From seeing the streets that some of my favorite artists lived and worked to touring areas soaked in history, to traveling not only around Spain but unexpectedly abroad, to making friends and learning to make a new city my home, I wouldn´t trade this time for anything. (Maybe with one exception, that I will explain in a second.) I have perfected Spanish metro-use, gotten myself lost and unlost, improved my Spanish, been attacked by the bravest pigeon that ever did pigeon, gone to museums and parks and clubs and bars and school and a place that I ended up calling ´home.´ Thank you Barcelona, thank you to my program, ISA, thank you to my two amazing professors, to my parents, to my family, to new friends and to old. I´m coming home, but not before I set my eyes upon the sights, sounds, and sensations of more cities and countries in the coming weeks. I can´t wait to go and see what´s out there, and to tell you all about it all the while.

Hasta luego, Barcelona, because I´m leaving you for now but not forever.




And now for the aforementioned exception that I would be remiss if I didn´t touch upon it. Go. Cavs. Go Cavs go Cavs go Cavs. I have been overwhelmed with love, admiration, and inexplicable emotion for my city and my team since the end of game 7. The championship. I stayed up til 5am to watch the game, and immediately did not know how to react. The Nike ad spot perfectly summarizes my feelings at that moment. I have cried each day since, and there was a split second that in my bed in Barcelona I wished to be in Cleveland more than anywhere else in the entire world in that moment. This means so much to my city, to my home, and I´m so glad to be able to celebrate something that is so much more than just having a higher score when the final buzzer sounds. Thank you Cle, hope you´re ready to celebrate again when I get home, because I will be.


Game of Thrones and Van Gogh

Hey it´s Han, back with another update from Barcelona. Aside from focusing on my studies (Mom, I swear I´m doing well in my classes!), I´ve been doing some light traveling, ensuring more stories and photos to share with all of you.

My program took us on a trip starting early in the morning Friday 3 June. We forced our sleepy bodies onto the bus and set off for Girona, a city in northern Spain. Like many places in Europe, Girona boasts architecture from the 1st century, layered with 14th century, existing in stark juxtaposition to the adjacent modern buildings. From exploring castles, churches, and ancient neighborhoods full of history to walking accross bridges built by the architect of the Eiffel Tower, Girona is full of magic. I haven´t even told you the best part yet. We got to see some of sets that main scenes from the current season of Game of Thrones were shot! Anyone that is a big GoT fan like myself will understand my obscene level of excitement for having walked through the streets of King´s Landing and up the steps of Braavos.

Gina and I on the steps where the Game of Thrones ‘Walk of Atonement’ begins.

It’s good luck to kiss the behind of this XII century lioness.

 After some time for exploring on our own and a lovely lunch, we boarded our chariot, aka the most uncomfortable bus I´ve ever been on, and headed to Montpellier in the south of France. We stayed two nights in a hotel, and were able to freely explore the city for dinner each evening. Saturday morning we awoke, devoured breakfast at the hotel, and left for Arles. Outdoor markets, gladiator arenas, and major sites of Van Gogh´s life were all highlights on our city tour. As a great fan of Van Gogh, walking around the city to see the actual courtyards and streets that are present in paintings that I recognized was sensational. There is just so much history packed into the narrow streets that are now full of shops and restaurants. We then headed to Aigues-Muertes, which means ´´dead water´´ in French. This moniker comes from the fact that the water there is not potable. The city is completely surrounded by perfectly preserved medieval walls and we did a bit of walking around and exploring inside. My friend Gina and I saw an opportunity to do something we´ve never done before and took it. Here is a raw photograph of the moment we put our feet into a tank of little fish to get pedicures:

Ancient gladiator arena in Arles

 Sunday morning we left Montepellier for Collioure, our last stop in France. This is where we spent a tranquil day enjoying the beautiful seaside town that I always pictured when the phrase ´south of France´ popped into my head. We enjoyed the beach and the traditional crew boat races in the water. The colorful buildings that line the streets there made for a fun and flavorful adventure and a perfect ending to a nice trip to France.

Things learned on this journey:

  1. If you go to a sushi restaurant in France you get the double-whammy effect of not speaking French or Japanese… and things get a little tricky. Good thing is, you end up figuring it out.
  2. I’m all for cultural immersion, but I just don’t think unrefrigerated, warm milk will ever be my thing. 
  3. Organic, non-gmo, gluten free, vegan, sugar-free-everything grocery stores exist everywhere. And they´re all the same.
  4. Keeping up with a blog while you´re out and about travelling can be challenging, but it´s worth it to stick with it.

 Special shoutout to the love from friends and family I´ve been getting for the blog posts. I´m doing it for you guys and I miss you all. Special shoutout to my little cousins Jack, Max, and Madison, I can´t wait to see you guys when I get back and share even more stories!

Signing off for now but not for long,


I’m Never Coming Home (Sorry, Mom)

Hey it’s me with some updates from my first week in Barcelona! I’ve had a blast over the last five days and I can’t wait to share why I’ve completely fallen in love with this city. Let’s dive in. 
I am the metro master. Novice-rider no more, I feel comfortable and confident navigating the entire city through the clean and quick underground system. I was even fortunate enough to join a jam-packed car filled with locals on their way home from the Coldplay concert a few nights ago. The entire way the tshirt-clad crowd drunkenly sang Viva la Vida, but only the oh-oh-oh-oooohs because I’m sure most of them didn’t know any of the words. Needless to say that was quite an enjoyable experience. For the first fifteen minutes…

The architecture here is amazing. My group took a bus tour of the city on our segundo día (2nd day) here. We saw everything from centuries-old architecture to the 1992 Olympic stadium and facilities. A bus trip up the mountain allowed for an aerial view of the entire city, which was absolutely breathtaking. From the Olympic port to Sagrada Familia, the sight was unreal. Yesterday we took a tour of the gothic quarter, which was wildly interesting. We walked around and saw remnants and relics from the Spanish Civil War, the Inquisition, Ferdinand and Isabella, the Roman Empire, Christopher Columbus, and more. I was just outside the palace, that now acts as a museum, that holds the original letters that Columbus sent back to Ferdinand and Isabella letting them know that he’d come upon a new land, that of course was America, and asking them for a larger percentage of profits. Atta boy, Chris. It’s surreal to stand next to buildings built in 12BCE. The Catedral de Barcelona is one of the most impressive structures I’ve ever seen. The gothic architecture and neo-gothic adornments are mind-numbing. If you go after 5:15pm the admittance is free, so of course I went inside when the time was right. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves. 

exterior. Live bands play music for the locals and tourists that gather.

interior. The massive size was absolutely captivating.

On my walks to and from school and program meeting spots, I pass some Barcelona must-sees, including the Arc de Triomf, built for the 1992 Olympic Games to welcome the other countries, and the Parc de la Ciutadella, the largest park on Barcelona (it even has a zoo inside that I plan on checking out). 

There are always tourists, street performers, skaters, bubble blowers, and more in the enormous plaza leading to the Arc.

This spectacular fountain is just one hidden gem in the massive Parc de la Ciutadella.

Food here is delicious, as expected. The Mediterranean diet reigns supreme with lighter meals and delicious tapas midday. Almuerzo (lunch) is usually eaten between 2 and 4 pm and it’s customary to order tapas, which are small plates, with a group of friends and share with the table. Dinner is eaten around 9:30, which is much later than I am used to in the States, but I’ve adjusted well. There is a lot of seafood, being on the coast, and the most famous dish is called paella, which I’ve yet to try. Official review to come. I know you’re all on the edge of your seats. 

On Sunday this past weekend, we went on a trip to a winery and a beach in Sitges, about 45 minutes from Barcelona. This might have been the best day of my entire life thus far, and not just because I drank two glasses of wine before 10am. We were given an exclusive tour through the Cordorníu winery, which was established in 1551. From the lavish entrance to the extensive cellars, the ground are from a dream. They specialize in cava, which is a bubbly wine similar to champagne, and operate in the Penedés region, where they grow all their own grapes. They now produce over 200 million bottles a year. We took a wild ride on little trains through over 18 miles of the “old cellar” and saw thousands of bottles of ancient and undrinkable cava four levels underground. There we reached a luxurious tasting room where we experienced the bubbly. Two glasses. In ten minutes. At 10am. Was I tipsy? Absolutely. 

One of the many gorgeous buildings of Cordoníu.

Deep beneath the ground, ancient cellars hold dusty still-full bottles.

Massive barrels like these are still in use today.

Sitges was gorgeous as well; we spent the day lounging on the beach and playing volleyball. It was quite a week, and I’ve got so much more to share but I’ll spare you all and pace myself. Not sick of me yet? Challenge accepted.

Here’s a quick day-by-day snapshot of my week:

Day 1: I attempted to tell Luisa, my host, that I was full and didn’t want any more dinner. What I actually said was “I don’t like it at all.” So that went well. 

Day 2: figured out the toilet, stayed out at the discoteca (club) until 5am, took a bus tour through the city and failed to get a decent photograph 

Day 3: explored for hours and only tripped in public once and pretended to not speak any Spanish to avoid people on the street twice 

Day 4: had the best day of my life rolling through wine cellars and enjoying cava and the beach 

Day 5: took my placement exam and toured the gothic quarter and succeeded in not cursing inside the cathedral

Day 6: started classes and and joined friends for tapas and beers
This was quite a long entry, I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll be uploading photos to Facebook and working on regular blog posts to keep you updated. My readers (all two of you probably?) are important so if there’s something specific you want to me check out and get back to you on let me know! 

Hasta luego,


A Buckeye in Barcelona

You read that right, I’m off again and this time to Barcelona. I’ll be studying at the Menéndez Pelayo International University until the end of June to finish out the coursework necessary to obtain my Spanish minor at The Ohio State University. As many of you know, I’ve got quite a hankering to get out and see the world and this was the perfect opportunity to take advantage of my areas of study to take me somewhere new. 

After completing my month of classes about Spanish culture, art, language, and architecture, I’ll be joined by my sister Heather in Barcelona before we embark upon a mini tour of some European hot spots. You’ll just have to stay tuned for details throughout the rest of the summer. 

I’ve spent the last few months researching everything from train passes and towers, buses and best bites, to museums and mausoleums- gathering the pieces and parts I wanted to make sure I can soak up all the culture possible while I’m abroad. I plan on sharing my tips and tricks for travel as well as lessons learned along the way. For now, I’ll share a list of some thoughts I’ve had over the last 24 hours:

  • “But wait, I don’t actually know Spanish.”
  • “What do you mean you can’t find my other flight reservation?”
  • “If I’m at the Philadelphia airport does that mean I have to get a Philly cheesesteak?”
  • “My bag only weighs 35 lbs? That means I can buy 15 lbs of stuff abroad.”
  • “I really hope my parents remember to feed my fish.”
  • “I could not be more excited to start this journey.”

And now as I prepare myself to leave my home country for the next 56 days, there are no worries, regrets, or anxiety about forgetting to pack things I’ll need- only a calm excitement for whatever treasures and wonders I’m about to start collecting. 

Okay now I’m in the beautiful city of Barcelona and I’m completely smitten. From the beatific architecture and wide boulevards, this place has charm like no place I’ve ever been. I was greeted by my host mother, Luisa, who is a lovely 65 year old woman with a darling house with both a front and back walled-in garden. She doesn’t speak English. This will be an adventure. I know just enough Spanish to know what we are talking about but not what we’re saying. I will eventually be joined by a roommate also studying abroad at my university and a doctor named Alex, who is from Peru and is pursuing his master’s degree. He’s currently in Madrid on a mini vacation, I’m told. 

I stared at the toilet for 3 minutes trying to decide which flush button was the right one. I chose incorrectly. 

Adventures, stories, and embarrassing moments are sure to follow in this season of Han’s Travels.